New York City
Between the high population density and its towering skyscrapers, getting a cellular signal in New York City can be trickier than navigating its concrete-and-steel-lined corridors. But in the search for bars -- the cellular kind -- T-Mobile takes Manhattan and three other boroughs as well.
The Uncarrier finished with the fastest overall downloads, thanks to strong performances in almost every location. Verizon fared well, too, topping the charts with the fastest app download time despite having the second-fastest downloads (13.8 Mbps). But the big surprise turned out to be MetroPCS, which used T-Mobile's network to produce results that rivaled speeds from Big Red and AT&T.—Sam Rutherford
At the home of the Bronx Bombers, MetroPCS outdid its parent company, T-Mobile, along with the other three big carriers with speeds averaging 24 Mbps down and 20.7 Mbps up. T-Mobile was slightly slower with 19.1 down and 18.59 up, while AT&T came in third. App download speeds mirrored data speeds, which put those same three carriers at the front of the pack while Sprint and Virgin brought up the rear.
In the heart of Harlem, AT&T ruled the day with a blistering 32.2 Mbps down, faster than most home broadband connections, although uploads were much slower at 10 Mbps. Verizon edged out T-Mobile for second with 23.2 Mbps down and an almost symmetrical 20.8 up -- the highest upload rate at this location. AT&T and Verizon also had the top app download speeds at this location, grabbing Candy Crush Saga in 11 seconds and 16 seconds, respectively.
Financial District, Broadway and Morris St.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS continued their strong performance in the land of suits and stocks with average download rates of 17.7 and 15.4 Mbps down, and 18.4 and 17.7up, respectively. For everyone else, it seems the threat of burst bubbles and red ink sucked the juice out of the networks: Verizon eked out a usable but not great 4.8 Mbps, while AT&T struggled mightily, maxing out its app download time and featuring a glacial 830 Kbps average download.
On the other side of the East River in Brooklyn, T-Mobile topped the charts again with an average download speed of 17.4 Mbps, followed by MetroPCS in second with 14. Sprint found Brooklyn to its liking, turning in a solid download rate of 12.3 Mbps, which was good enough for third. It had the fastest app download time at 33 seconds, besting its Virgin Mobile subsidiary by a second.
For the northern stretch of Museum Mile on the Upper East Side, each of the big four carriers provided download speeds greater than 7 Mbps, with Verizon on top at 18 Mbps, followed by Sprint (11.1 Mbps), T-Mobile (9.3 Mbps) and AT&T (7.5 Mbps). Likewise, Verizon had the fastest download time for Candy Crush Saga at 14 seconds, nearly twice as fast as its nearest rival.
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Way out in deep Queens, T-Mobile finally stumbled, putting out an average download speed of just 530 Kbps Mbps. AT&T took over the top spot with the highest average download speed (19.25 Mbps), followed by Verizon (18.62 Mbps). In fact, every carrier other than T-Mobile and MetroPCS benefitted from the lack of massive buildings obstructing the sky by posting download speeds above 5 Mbps.
With consistently fast data speeds, T-Mobile has taken the crown from Verizon in NYC for both average download and upload rates of 14.6 and 12.3 Mbps, respectively. Big Red didn't fall too far, settling in at second (13.8 and 12.3 Mbps down and up), while AT&T finished in third at 12.6 down and 10.5 Mbps up among the four largest carriers. As usual, Sprint had the worst speeds of the four, averaging 7.9 Mbps, almost 5 Mbps slower than AT&T's third-place mark.
MetroPCS impressed with speeds that held their own against the major networks, making it the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to beat with its average download speeds of 13.6 Mbps. With average download speeds of 5.3 and 5.1 Mbps, respectively, Cricket and Straighttalk had the slowest data out of all the discount carriers.
Interestingly, Verizon maintained the fastest app download speeds with an average time of 38 seconds, which more than half a minute faster than T-Mobile, its closest competitor.
How Others See It
Reports from network testing firms Rootmetrics and Ookla still put Verizon at the top of the heap in the City That Never Sleeps, though the margins between Big Red and challengers T-Mobile and AT&T turn out to be pretty small. In RootMetrics' measure of data performance for the first half of 2015, Verizon scored a 98.0 on the company's 100-point index, just edging T-Mobile's 97.2 score. Rootmetrics pegged Verizon's fastest median download speed at 23.5 Mbps; T-Mobile had the highest median upload speed with 18.8 Mbps. In terms of overall performance, Verizon had the highest ranking at 98.2, followed by AT&T (97.2) and T-Mobile (96.9); Sprint brought up the rear among the top four carriers in RootMetrics' rankings with a 92.7 score.
Ookla also gives the nod to T-Mobile in the Big Apple. As of August 2015, Ookla recorded T-Mobile with an average download speed of 22 Mbps, ahead of both Verizon (17.7 Mbps) and AT&T (13.8 Mbps).